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Is the government tapping your phones?

Being subjected to a federal investigation is enough to make anybody a little bit paranoid -- and rightly so. You may wonder if your office is about to be raided any minute now, or whether you'll get home from work to find federal agents picking apart your personal papers and scouring through your computer. You may also start to worry that your phone lines are being tapped.

It's not an utterly irrational fear. Reports as early as 2013 indicate that federal authorities are using more and more wiretaps in their white-collar investigations. Once upon a time, wiretaps were mostly used in drug trafficking and murder investigations.

While you may take some comfort in knowing that the authorities generally have to limit their phone snooping to cases where they can show enough probable cause to get a wiretap order, keep in mind that not all phone investigations are even considered an invasion of privacy.

For example, the police don't need a wiretap order to get the pen register for a phone line -- which means they can check every call you have dialed. They also don't need a wiretap order to pull a tap and trace on your line, which will tell them every number that has called you.

When you're the subject of a federal investigation, it's always wise to be conscious of the potential for governmental surveillance and ongoing intrusion into all aspects of your life. Even innocent comments and actions with perfectly reasonable explanations can be misconstrued when the government is building a case against you.

If you're the subject of a federal investigation for white collar crimes or you suspect you may be, it's time to have a candid discussion with an attorney about how to best protect yourself.

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